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Sitka News

Reflections of an Artist at Sea

Kristin Link assisting with pulling in collection nets

I have recently returned from an Artist at Sea residency hosted by the Sitka Center and the Hatfield Marine Science Center. For this unique artist residency, I accompanied a research science team, studying zooplankton in the Northern California Current off the coasts of Oregon and Northern California, for twelve days aboard the R/V Sikuliaq in early March. I had never been to sea for so long or worked alongside scientists on a research vessel. It was a fun and exciting experience and I was able to get insights into both the research process and the world of zooplankton.

Kristin working on sketches

Making light and being transparent or shiny are specific adaptations that help zooplankton survive in the ocean, and these adaptations also make them beautiful and fun to draw. Aboard the Sikuliaq, I spent a lot of time taking photos, making sketches, looking through books and studying graphs and images. Like the scientists, I collected a lot of data, but my data collection is more driven by visuals and aesthetics.

Making light and being transparent or shiny are specific adaptations that help zooplankton survive in the ocean, and these adaptations also make them beautiful and fun to draw. Aboard the Sikuliaq, I spent a lot of time taking photos, making sketches, looking through books and studying graphs and images. Like the scientists, I collected a lot of data, but my data collection is more driven by visuals and aesthetics.

Kristin working on sketches while on board the R/V Sikuliaq

As a visual artist and science illustrator I am able to create an accurate representation of the natural world, but I'm also interested in the way humans experience and learn about their surroundings. At sea we collected plankton samples from nets, and the scientists will use those samples to explain what species are where in the water column and under which conditions. But there is also something special about being out in the ocean in the middle of the night, pulling up nets while the boat rocks in the waves with seagulls watching and sea lions barking at you. There is also something special about watching an octopus larva under a microscope as it swims around and changes colors from clear to red.

Kristin synthesizing ideas and images from sea in her studio back on land at the Sitka Center

At the Sitka Center, and back home in my "lab"/ studio, I can process my data, synthesize ideas and tease out the stories I want to tell. I am working on putting my sketches and artwork together in a zine, as well as preparing a body of work that all four Artists at Sea will exhibit in 2020. I am taking some of my images of plankton and combining them with scientific data, maps and other information that helps people to learn about them. I'm interested in telling the story of how the beautiful and unique organisms I observed at sea relate to the scientific story and to our lives on land.

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